What I Read: September and October 2017

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October is a month that always seems to fly by for me. The weather, the football, fall break, and then for our family, zooming into birthdays (three!) and Halloween activities at the end of the month.

And thus, I’m just nuts. So here are two months of book reviews I needed to catch up on!


Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – I listened to about half of the audiobook of this on a trip in July, and finally managed to finish it in September. (I tend to neglect audiobooks for podcasts!) The narration was good, and it was fun to listen to the Australian accent. This was Moriarty’s first book. It doesn’t have the great mystery aspect of her other books, although it does lay out a dramatic event in the beginning and then backtrack to get there. The story of adult, triplet sisters trying to make it through their everyday lives really is riveting. As with most of Moriarty’s works, a good beach read or chicklit with substance.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz – Professional cook and baker Lebovitz moves abroad to Paris, and recounts his adjustments to life in the City of Lights (and the city of tiny kitchens and refrigerators). Lighthearted and wry, with great recipes. I really want to try his Chicken Mole.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo – Stay with Me is Adebayo’s debut novel, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s gloriously lyrical and a peek into Nigerian culture. It’s also the story of a marriage: Yejiede and Akin see themselves as a modern couple in 1980s Nigeria; they want a child, desperately, but they don’t want to go to the cultural norm of polygamy. So Yejiede is aghast when a woman shows up and is introduced as Akin’s second wife.

The anguish Yejiede goes through, mentally, bodily, to have a child and then beyond, is fleshed out in this short novel. The military coup that takes place reflects the battle of the marriage. I know that sounds dramatic, but whatever. I thought it was a great book by a young talent.

Reading People by Anne Bogel | review by Jessie Weaver

Reading People by Anne Bogel –  I’ve really enjoyed discovering more about my personality in the last several years. I feel like I understand myself; some of the oddities I’ve always thought were quirks no one understood turn out to be pretty normal for an HSP INFP. (That would be Highly Sensitive Person, and INFP is my Meyers-Briggs type.) Anne’s first book outlines several personality frameworks, making them easier to understand and filling in with personal stories and anecdotes. This book is really one-of-a-kind, and I thought it was super helpful and interesting! If you’re at all interested in personality typing, you really should get yourself a copy. I especially loved digging into the cognitive functions of Meyers-Briggs, which I don’t know a lot about.

(I was provided with a copy of this book from Anne’s team at What Should I Read Next, as a former guest of the podcast.)

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian – It’s almost strange how much the story lines of this book and Rabbit Cake are basically the same: the mother is a sleepwalker and disappears, presumed dead; two daughters with a large age gap and a father are left behind to sort things out. But where Rabbit Cake gives us a quirky ride with the younger daughter, Bohjalian presents his dark tale through Lianna, the older daughter. Bohjalian is such a great, intense writer that I will pretty much read anything he publishes. But this was definitely not my favorite of his. This and his last book (The Guest Room) both have a heavy focus on sex, which I didn’t enjoy. Lianna isn’t very likeable, and I didn’t feel invested in her story. I need some likeable character, and I didn’t find one here. This was a solid three stars for me: good writing but the story line didn’t grab me.

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – When I was starting this post, I tried to figure out why I had what looked like a gap in my October reading. I knew I had abandoned two books, but it still seemed like a long time! Then I realized it’s because I had read this book again. The first time, I listened to it on audio. And please let me tell you, it’s 100% worth it to find the audiobook. (It’s on Hoopla, if your library uses that service.) Jen reads it herself, and her asides to the listener and voice quivers when she reads something touching made me feel like she was reading it just to me. But because we were going to talk about it in a new book club, I wanted to highlight up a paper copy. I reread it in hard copy, and it’s one I think I will go back to many times. I love her thoughts on parenting, marriage, extended family, Jesus, and food. As a mom to four wild things, it helps to hear someone whose been through the trenches and made it out alive and slightly sane.

So recommend this. Let me know if you read or listen to it!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham – This YA novel gives us two stories: that of Rowan, a 17-year-old biracial student who finds a skeleton buried in her backyard, and Will, a 17-year-old in 1921, who has to face the intense segregation that seems to be coming to a boil in his city of Tulsa. It’s a quick read with a thought-provoking story, super relevant, and brings to light a historical event I think most of us had no clue about. Worth the read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – Ng (Everything I Never Told You) again writes about family drama in a way that sucks you right into the story. The wealthy Richardson family (two working parents and four stairstep children) has everything going for them except the outlandish behavior of the youngest daughter, Izzy. When Mrs. Richardson rents out a house to a single mother and teenage daughter, Izzy seems to find a place to land, while the new neighbor, Pearl, finds her place at the Richardson home. All this sets up the real part of the story – the family members having to choose sides about a court case that hits them all close to home.

The first 100 pages are a little slow to get going, but the payoff is well worth it. (And I loved that this took place in the 90s, when I was in high school – it helped make the children extra-relatable for me.)

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner – At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to follow the story lines in this novel, Meissner’s latest. There was a present-day character. There were women on the ship of war brides. There was Annaliese’s war story. There was Simone’s war story. And these all seemed to be sprinkled through, going back and forth in time. And – oh yeah – there were ghosts, too.

But it does come together in a very interesting and readable premise. While the ending is kind of odd, it was all certainly fascinating and something different. If you want a shake of the supernatural with your World War II drama, you might like this book. Meissner is a new author to me, but I’m definitely going to check out some of her backlist.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green – I realize what I am going to say here is going to be a Super Unpopular Opinion, so please stop reading if you can’t handle that.

I loved The Fault in Our Stars. I really liked Green’s book Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I thought Green did an excellent job portraying OCD through his main character. But I didn’t buy the romance at all. I didn’t understand why they liked each other. I felt basically nothing for either of them. The most interesting relationship is definitely between the main character, Aza, and her best friend, Daisy.

Suffice to say, I was pretty disappointed in this one. I think that’s allowed. Just didn’t fill my expectations of a Green novel.

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So with those 1300 words, that was my reading for September and October. You can log this post as a novel on your GoodReads. 😉 What have you been reading lately?

What I Read: August 2016

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cursedchild

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne – I’m happy to discuss this in more detail if anyone wants to, but I also don’t want to spoil it for anyone. All in all .. it was a play, not a novel, and it’s hard to develop characters in a play without seeing it being acted out. Also, I want to think that Harry is happy and has a nice, quiet life after book 7, so I was kind of prejudiced against this from the start. 😉

wintersolstice


Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher – I have heard a lot about Pilcher’s Shell Sheekers, but I ran across this one at a thrift store and decided to pick it up. I am so glad I did, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. My only regret is looking on GoodReads at the synopsis, which ruins a main event. So don’t look at it! Just dive in. A great cast of characters find themselves together at Christmastime. That’s about it – the whole plot. But it’s really an excellent read that made me almost feel cold despite being 6+ months pregnant when I was reading. Set in England and Scotland, it reminded me a little of Maeve Binchy, one of my very favorite authors.

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Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery – Compared to the original six Anne books, which I read in July, this one fell pretty flat for me. It’s told about half in Anne’s letters to Gilbert and half in narrative. Anne is teaching for the three years that Gilbert is at medical school, this book falling in between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. I was hoping to get more of Gilbert and Anne’s relationship, but instead we mostly see Anne’s developing relationships with the characters around her in Summerside. There seem to be a lot of old, crotchety ladies – maybe Montgomery’s writing sweet spot, but none of them are Rachel Lynde. So while I liked visiting Anne, this is definitely my least favorite I’ve read in the series. I’m looking forward to reading Anne of Ingleside still, though.

trulymadlyguilty

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – I’ve yet to hear of anyone who was enamored with Moriarty’s newest release, myself included. There is no doubt it’s readable, but unlike the other books of hers I’ve read (reviews: The Last Anniversary, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot), I didn’t find any of the characters to be sympathetic or likable. I did think the last quarter of the book helped redeem some of them, but it was too little too late.

I’m really learning that if there is not a likable character or at least one I can root for, I cannot deal with a book. I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’m wondering if it’s some aspect of my INFP personality or just me as a reader.

cityofmirrors

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin – I almost always reread all the books in a series before the final book comes out. But y’all, I could not bring myself to reread 1300 pages, especially since I was not enthralled with the middle book of the trilogy, The Twelve. Unfortunately that meant it had been more than three and a half years since I read the other two books, and I had a hard time remembering what was going on in the story when I started.

I thought Laura did a good job summing up my feelings on The City of Mirrors in a recent episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast: It was really long; there was a lot of fighting; and it seemed disjointed at times. But it really did an excellent job wrapping up all the plot lines and themes of the series. It’s a series about science, faith, human nature, and desperation. In all honesty, I think when I recommend it I will say to just read The Passage. But I’m not upset I finished the series, either, even though it was a slow read for me.

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood – I’ve heard a ton of buzz about this book, and it was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide. I was so glad it lived up to its hype! A great tale about the relationship between a 104-year-old woman and the young Boy Scout who is helping her with her yardwork. I won’t say anything else, because I like to go into a book with no knowledge if possible. But it is an easy read, heartwarming, and delightful.

sugarqueen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen – I don’t know what it is about Allen’s books, but I just devour them. I don’t think it’s taken me longer than two days to read one, ever. This was no exception. It’s the story of Josey, a twentysomething who lives with her (rich and) demanding mother, is in love with the mailman, and suddenly has a woman living in her closet. Through the urgings of the closet-dweller, Josey comes to terms with her life and starts to emerge from her shell. It’s a “sweet” story all around, and I am addicted to Allen’s magical realism and Southern charm.

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I was kind of astonished to see in August I read two books published in July, one from May, and one from April. I am not usually that on top of new reads. What have you been reading lately? 

Added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy

What I Read: June 2016

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure statement for more details.

Ready to hear about the 10 books I read in June? I know … that’s a somewhat frightening number. (Plus I read Harry Potters 4, 5, and 6. Helloooo summer + getting to that point in pregnancy where I just want to lay around all the time.)

It’s more difficult to share these reviews on months when I read several things I really didn’t love. Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t for everyone; they just weren’t for me. I’ve tried to outline why and accentuate some positives.

vanityfair


Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – My best friend and I have been reading a classic a month for almost a year now, and this is the first one I wish I had just laid aside. It has interesting characters, but probably half the writing is detailed descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the actual plot line. I realize it was written in 1847-48, but as a 2016 reader I just did not care for the style at all. Especially considering in April we read Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847 and such an incredible page-turner.

Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave – Very rarely do I feel like books would make better movies than they do books, but this was one of those cases. The plot seemed almost too theatrical: in the first chapter, main character Georgia flees her LA life for her hometown, showing up at the bar her brothers own … in her wedding gown. When she returns to her childhood home, she gets another shocker straight off the bat. As we follow her through the next week of her life, we encounter some flashbacks from her father’s point-of-view, giving some clarity to the current situations. I didn’t feel like it was enough, though–the plot seemed hurried, none of the characters were very likable, and in the end I was very unsatisfied. Like I said, though, I honestly think it would make a great romantic movie. The pieces are there, they just weren’t quite fleshed out enough for me for a novel.

lastanniversary

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – A lesser-known title from the author of What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies, The Last Anniversary is very much in the beloved style of Australian author Moriarty. There is a little mystery, and while we unearth it we’re treated to the lives of many intertwined, real, crazy characters. In this novel, the main character is Sophie, who is shocked to find she’s inherited a house from her ex-boyfriend’s great-aunt. The house is on Scribbly Gum Island, home to only a few houses, all of whose occupants are related. They survive happily through the fame of the island’s mysterious Munro Baby, whose parents disappeared without a trace decades before. Sophie, a single 39-year-old with a womb crying for children, navigates her way through the family drama. Moriarty’s quirky, entertaining style makes tough topics seem like light reading, and this book is well worth a cover-to-cover read. (Note: lots of language and sex talk, plus a few “trigger topics” – happy to expand if you want via e-mail.)

(This book and review were featured in my post 5 Great Summer Beach Reads at the Chattanooga Moms Blog.)

Tell Me Three Things unexpectedeverything

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

This may be a weird grouping, but stick with me. These are both YA romances that came out this Spring. And I expected to love them more than I did. Note: this doesn’t mean I didn’t race through both, reading huge chunks at a time – because I totally did. They are good reads. But for me, they weren’t GREAT.

Here’s the thing: my high-school life was perhaps atypical. I was a youth-group girl. I didn’t go to parties that had alcohol and drugs; I wasn’t having sex. So when I read books that are maybe more “typical” teenager, it mostly makes me frightened for my kids. Bring on the nice, clean Jenny B. Jones stuff.

I think that has something to do with the fact that these didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Both are sweet stories with good characters. I didn’t LOVE The Unexpected Everything like I did Matson’s other books I’ve read – Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. But I think both hers and Buxbaum’s book have fun plotlines and are good YA reads. They just left me itching for something a little cleaner.

aninvisiblethread

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff – I can’t remember at all where I read about this book. It’s a few years old, a memoir by Schroff about her relationship with a young, panhandling boy in New York City. Prompted to turn around one day and actually see someone begging, Laura invited Maurice for McDonald’s … and into her life. It’s a sweet memoir, reflecting both on the relationship between Maurice and Laura and on her past. It doesn’t always seem quite to flow, and I would have loved to see more of Maurice’s point-of-view. But the nudge to see people and put yourself out there shone through.

cuckooscalling

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but don’t expect anything like Harry Potter from these novels. Set in real-live-modern-day London, Galbraith introduces us to her private detective, Cormoran Strike, currently on the cusp of losing everything. Strike is former military, brash, grizzly, and gets down to business solving a case brought to him by a deceased model’s adopted brother. Rowling/Galbraith paints a perfect picture of her hero, his assistant, the setting, and the mystery. Maybe I’m just naive when it comes to mysteries – I don’t read a ton of them – but I had no idea what was coming when I got to the end. I’m currently reading the second book in this series, The Silkworm.  (With the warning from several that the ick factor in this one is significantly higher.)

madwomanupstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell – Having read Jane Eyre AND Wuthering Heights in the last six months, I had really high hopes that I would adore this one. And I didn’t. Maybe I’m not quite nerdy enough about the Brontes, or maybe it was just that the main character, Samantha, was so incredibly unlikable to me. I think the premise could have been really interesting, but this one was just not for me. (I will say Anne Bogel had it in her Summer Reading Guide, it has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon, and the average GoodReads rating is 3.73. I am vastly outnumbered here, and that’s OK.)

fewofthegirls

A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy – I don’t know where her husband and publisher keep unearthing Binchy things to publish – she died in 2012 – but as long as they do, I will keep reading. (I did put down Maeve’s Times, a collection of her newspaper articles, which didn’t especially appeal to me.) I was very pleasantly surprised by A Few of the Girls. While I’ve read Binchy’s short-story collections, they are usually much less appealing to me than novels. I think I have said before that I am just not a short-story reader; I like to dive into a nice, long, detailed novel. But in this collection, the characters are bright and varied, and I truly enjoyed hearing Maeve’s unique voice in each essay. In the forward, her husband said she never suffered from writer’s block; her characters were always hopping out of her head and onto the page. I love that image, and it suits this book well.

Station_Eleven_Cover

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I saved the best for last, even though I read this somewhere in the middle of this line-up. By far the best book I read this month and one of my few 5-star reviews this year, Station Eleven is a masterpiece detailing a world where a vast majority of the people have died from a flu epidemic. I’m kind of mad at my husband, who read this last year, at not insisting loudly that I read it RIGHT THEN. Mandel weaves together past and present, characters minorly entwined, in a perfect balance of knowing and not-knowing. Just really, REALLY good and unique among the long list of post-apocalyptic novels.

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So what did you read in June? Anything great? 

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, assuming you can call 1300+ words quick …